The Department-Store Worker Who Laughs at the Prices on Clothes

Dan,* 24
Macy’s shipping and receiving worker
Philadelphia, PA

I guess my title is retail support. In other terms, shipping and receiving, logistics, yada, yada. I work in downtown Philly, smack-dab by City Hall inside a giant building. You know the Wanamaker building? It’s on top of where a train station used to be.

It’s a labor job. It’s a lot of back-and-forth, a lot of moving around. I’m on my feet the entire time. My main task is processing shipments, which means unloading, separating, and tagging individual pieces of merchandise with security sensors so it can be sent out to the floor and go on its way.

It’s nothing even remotely interesting.

The shipments come by truck from a warehouse in Secaucus, New Jersey. I don’t know where it comes from before that — no clue. I don’t care and I don’t ask.

Our hours are based around how much merchandise we get. The hours I work really depend on the time of the year. The most heaviest is during the winter because of the holidays. Then it lasts a little bit through to spring from all the sales. July is dry. Then the cycle starts again.

The department manager usually uploads our schedules to our staff portal as early as Friday then they spend the weekend evaluating the schedule seeing who can come in and who can’t because a lot of people are part-time or have a second job. Many are students, so somebody’s situation can change overnight. Sometimes it gets annoying.

The physical side is demanding. You do get sore. I’m not going to lie, I’m sore right now. I feel it in my arms and my back. There’s days where all I want to do is sit. It’s one of those things where you get what you sign up for. It gets tiring sometimes. But for me, personally, I don’t mind it because it’s honest work.

Even in the winter when it gets hectic, it’s not like they’re having us move 100-pound boxes on our backs or anything like that.

In a lot of ways, I’m not the most easiest to get along with. Certain times I do get a little pissed off because people press my buttons. Given who I am, I can’t really show that I’m angry a lot because then they’re like, “Oh my God, why is he so angry?!” It’s not like I’m a total badass. I have my days. Somedays I am friendly but some days I will just walk away if you say hi to me.

Now that I think about it, I did take this position because I can’t do dealing with people. You know exactly what I’m talking about, right? People are assholes. People are d-bags. Sometimes they do things to piss you off just because they can.

Unlike with service or retail work I don’t have to put on a fake smile. I don’t have to get all dressed-up and worry about how I look. We work behind the scenes so nobody’s really worried about what we look like. We have to wear all black. I was happy when I heard about that because most of the clothes I wear are black. It was perfect. Work jeans. Protective shoes. As long as it’s black. They let some things slide like wearing a hat sometimes, but if an official figure comes in, they’re like, “All right, take the fucking hat off now.” I’m like, “All right, all right, I’ll find my name tag …”

I work with my hands. I’m on my feet. When you’re in that type of place of work, the time goes by extremely fast. Eight hours in a chair, you’re looking at the clock going, “Where’s a gun? Shoot me now.”

Am I happy in my job? I don’t know. The job itself I don’t mind. My frustrations are not exactly caused by the work I do but moreso the people who run it.

I guess everybody has their ideas and everybody wants to think their idea is golden. Whether it’s right or wrong, when you’re on the ground doing the job and you see what the reality is, you are much better informed to make suggestions for making things better than people in an office. There’s been many times when I’ve spoken out about how I felt about where I work. But I’ve come to accept that whatever happens, at the end of the day it’s out of my control.

My motto is: I give you what you give me. If you’re not going to worry about conditions for your workers or certain parts of the store, then I’m not either. That’s how I view my job: It’s give and take an equal amount.

I do not want to discuss my pay. It will get me in trouble. But I’m on an hourly wage. And I need hours. It’s one those jobs where you just have to show you’re working. You definitely don’t need to be like putting on a show, like juggling ten boxes while pushing a cart or anything like that. They don’t want you to be freaking acrobats and flipping around and shit.

There’s days when I’m like, “Agh, I fucking hate this job.” Usually because of the people who run it. But that’s not on me. That’s on them. They have to figure out what they’re doing is stupid.

I just look at it as a job. I’m not going to be there forever. I’ve been there for a while. Everyone knows that I’m a good worker.

But being in a higher position in shipping and receiving is not a position that looks glamorous at all. They make it clear that there’s not that much movement. For me, that’s okay. I know that it’s just the job that I have. I think if I got promoted, the amount of work would be a lot more than what I’d get back. You get a pay raise, but even then it’s not much. I tend not to worry about it, because that was never the game plan, to be in that type of position. I have made that known so they know not to push me into that position because I’ll tell them, “Hey, bye-bye, mmm-mmm, no. No.”

It’s not so much that I’m stuck here because I chose to work here. I never feel trapped. It’s just, you know: I will do this work. I’m going to go on my lunch break. I’m going to come back and do some more work, then I’m going to go home. Then whatever happens after that, you handle it. You assholes get it together. Do not bug me with your conference-room statistics shit.

Working in retail is fine for me because I’ve never been that big into clothes. There’s cameras everywhere. Which makes sense. You have hundreds of cashmere sweaters. For us, every day, we look at it and it’s like a rag or something. To somebody else, it’s like, “Ooooo, cashmere!” To me, it’s just fucking clothes. I’ve never had the urge to want to take anything. I’m not going to ruin my life for a fucking “cashmere” sweater.

I don’t mind being watched because I don’t want them to pin somebody else’s shit on me. If you have somebody who’s working with you who looks at this stuff as valuable and will try to steal it to sell — if he gets caught they start watching us even more. Usually when I see somebody from our department trying to steal, I report them immediately. You’re not fucking up my shit. You’re not fucking this up for me. Get out of here.

I’m not going to lie. I do see the prices for certain items and brands and they do make me scratch my head. I’m like, “What?” I guess it’s all about location. You can send a thousand shirts that are all $100 to other places, but in working-class Philadelphia, nobody’s going to fucking buy it. Anybody who’s working, grinding, to make ends meet — nobody in their right mind is going to buy a single item for $100 or triple digits.

If you do, either you have way too much time on your hands or your parents are still supporting you. I get it. People work hard and they want to show it by looking nice. I’ve just never been that type. I get it. Everybody has their tastes. For real though, nobody real is going to buy it. Me? I just laugh. And with my co-workers I laugh at it. You see this shit? We go, like on a game show, “Yo! Try to guess this price.” “Is it triple digits?” “Does it start at 1?” “150?” “Yes, you are right.” “And what is your prize?” “You get… nothing!”

*Name has been changed

The Department-Store Worker Who Laughs at Clothes’ Cost